Dom Robinson reviews

Gattaca There is no gene for the human spirit
Distributed by

Columbia TriStar


    • CDR 95239
    • Cert: 15
    • Running time: 102 minutes
    • Year: 1997
    • Pressing: 1999
    • Region(s): 2, PAL
    • Chapters: 28 plus extras
    • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
    • Languages: English, German (both DD 5.1)
    • Subtitles: 14 different languages available
    • Widescreen: 2.35:1
    • 16:9-Enhanced: Yes
    • Macrovision: Yes
    • Price: £19.99
    • Extras : Scene index, Theatrical trailer


      Andrew Niccol


    Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher


    Andrew Niccol


    Michael Nyman (The Piano)


    Vincent/Jerome: Ethan Hawke (Alive, Before Sunrise, Dead Poets Society, Great Expectations, The Newton Boys, Reality Bites, Snow Falling On Cedars)
    Irene: Uma Thurman (The Avengers, Batman And Robin, Dangerous Liaisons, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, Les Miserables, Pulp Fiction, The Truth About Cats And Dogs)
    Jerome/Eugene: Jude Law (Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, Shopping, Wilde, The Wisdom Of Crocodiles, TV: “Children’s Ward”)
    Director Josef: Gore Vidal
    Lamar: Xander Berkeley (Air Force One, Barb Wire, Candyman, A Few Good Men, The Killing Jar, Safe)
    Antonio: Elias Koteas (The Adjuster, Crash, Desperate Measures, Fallen, The Thin Red Line)
    Marie: Jayne Brook (TV: “Chicago Hope”)
    Geneticist: Blair Underwood (Deep Impact, Just Cause, TV: “L.A. Law”)
    Detective Hugo: Alan Arkin (Coupe De Ville, Edward Scissorhands, Glengarry Glen Ross, Grosse Pointe Blank, Jakob The Liar, The Rocketeer, Slums Of Beverly Hills)
    Anton: Loren Dean (Apollo 13, Billy Bathgate, The End Of Violence, Enemy Of The State, 1492: Conquest Of Paradise, Mumford, The Passion Of Darkly Noon, Say Anything, Starfucker)
    Younger Vincent: Mason Gamble (Dennis)

G attaca is the name of the company for which genetic science has become an artform. In the future, as soon as you are born, your genetic ‘footprint’ will tell the exact time and cause of your death. Beyond that, your parents will be able to specify your sex and enable you to avoid catching any diseases or developing genetic defects which would otherwise hinder your health. This may sound a bit bizarre when presented with the concept, but for the characters in this film, it is the present and it’s for real. Vincent (Ethan Hawke) knows that he will die not longer after reaching 30, having been born naturally – making him a genetic “in-valid” – and he’s envious of his “valid” brother Anton.

Vincent dreams of becoming an astronaut, but only “valid”‘s may apply and he is introduced to Jerome (Jude Law), a “valid” – now incapacitated and in a wheelchair – who is willing to sell his prime genetic material for cash. Using Jerome’s blood, urine, skin and hair samples, Vincent is able to forge a new identity and pursue his goal of a mission to space with the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, while romancing Irene (Uma Thurman), another “valid”.

Problems arise a week before his flight when a Gattaca mission director is murdered and a relentless investigator (Alan Arkin) puts Vincent in the frame, threatening to expose Vincent’s double life and ruins his hopes and dreams forever.

Other additions to the cast of note are Elias Koteas – the sickest man on the planet – if you’ve seen “Crash” – and Jayne Brook, from TV’s Chicago Hope, as Vincent’s parents, not to mention Xander Berkeley, the kind of actor whose face is always recognisable but you can’t always remember his name, as the Gattaca scientist who may or may not be onto Vincent.

Like Vincent before he is set to take flight, the quality of the picture on display is almost perfect. Any artifacts are only visible if you’re really looking for them. They won’t be seen easily from the normal viewing distance and don’t detract from your enjoyment. On one side, the film is presented in its original widescreen ratio of 2.35:1, is enhanced for 16:9 widescreen televisions – thus allowing for higher resolution – and the average bitrate is a so-so 4.25 Mb/s. On the flip-side comes the pan-and-scan version which loses a lot of picture information, most notably the gorgeous set designs, so you’re best off with the widescreen one.

The sound comes in Dolby Digital 5.1 – which will benefit all of those with the suitable hardware – and Dolby Surround for everyone else. The sound doesn’t get much of a workout, mainly being used for dialogue and ambience, but the musical score from Michael Nyman can send a shiver down the spine in the same way that Eric Serra’s did for The Big Blue.

Extras :

  • Chapters/Theatrical Trailer : There are 28 chapters spread throughout the 102 mins of the film which is a good number, although the last one isn’t solely reserved for the end credits as you’d expect. The theatrical trailer is also included.

  • Languages/Subtitles : There’s two languages on the disc, English and German, both available in Dolby Digital 5.1, with a Dolby surround option also offered in English. As for subtitles? Take your pick from the following FOURTEEN languages : English, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Icelandic, Hindi, Hebrew, German, Turkish, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Greek and Norwegian.

  • Other extras : This DVD is packed with extras, namely :
    – A seven-minute featurette including brief interviews with the cast
    – Seven scenes of cut-scenes and out-takes including an interesting musical piece named “Coda” which details those dignataries which would not have existed had their fate been decided by this film’s methods.
    – A brief poster gallery and an extensive photo gallery
    – Filmographies for Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin and Loren Dean.

  • Menu : The menu is static but very responsive. Just dragging the mouse pointer over an option highlights it. On playing the disc you see the Columbia TriStar logo before the main menu appears.

    Upon selecting the “Start Movie” option, you’ll first see a “Sony Pictures DVD Center” logo, followed by the Dolby Digital helicopter demo, the copyright logo and then the film itself.

    This is one of those films that isn’t perfect, but remains a must-see particularly due to its odd premise and the fact that there’s no way anyone could confuse American Ethan Hawke for English Jude Law. The ending also had a Freejack-feel about it.

    On the plus side, Columbia TriStar have begun including both widescreen and fullscreen versions of the film – one on either side of the DVD. However, the negative point here is that they have changed from their sturdy keep-cases to a plastic – easily breakable – casing as used since day one by Polygram.

    There’s just one other thing this presentation could use and that is a feature-length director’s commentary track, but aside from that, the impressive visuals and sonic performance, as well as the large amount of extras, make this DVD is an essential purchase.

    FILM : ***½ PICTURE QUALITY: ****½ SOUND QUALITY: ***** EXTRAS: **** ——————————- OVERALL: ****

    Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 1999.

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